Letter to the Editor
To the editor:
The Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife is ranting and raving over the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to manage the Unimak Island refuge as a naturally functioning ecosystem. Though trophy hunting has brought the herd near to extinction, the SFW wants the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to do a “Corey Rossi” and kill the wolves. The department says it would target only about 7 of the 30 wolves, but Alaskans know how that really goes.
ADFG data shows a bull-cow ratio of 5-100. Most of those bulls are too old to produce healthy offspring. Predictably, calf mortality is up, but the SFW has decided it’s the wolves. ADFG shows 400 brown bears on the island. Brownies are masters at taking caribou newborns. But bears are desirable trophies, so the wolves are targeted.
The SFW carefully overlooks the fact that, since 2001, 90 bull caribou were taken by trophy hunters before hunting stopped in 2009. During that same period, only 12 caribou were taken for subsistence. Guides cry crocodile tears, claiming subsistence hunting is being damaged by the wolves, but the data simply doesn’t reflect that. Most of the island’s residents prefer to hunt caribou on the mainland, where access and terrain make it far easier.
The SFW doesn’t explain how wolves target just the bulls when, typically, cows are much easier prey. In fact, the only ones consistently taking bulls on Unimak Island are the trophy hunters, the SFW crowd.
Subsistence, as always, takes a backseat to the SFW interests when it comes to how the Board of Game and ADFG manage our wildlife. The facts take a backseat, too, when the SFW tries to blame the wolves. And now we have the SFW trying to extort the USFWS by having Congress cut their funding.
Wolves and bears and caribou have co-existed for eons. Unimak’s caribou have dropped to almost nothing then self-replenished by caribou swimming over from the mainland. The refuge is a natural ecosystem and should be managed as such.
But mainland Alaska isn’t enough for the SFW. They want it all.
As Unimak shows, Alaskans are being given the SFW’s leftovers and natural predators are given the blame by a Board of Game dominated by the Alaska Outdoor Council and SFW.